More than a few townies joined residents in the fine acoustics of the Carol Woods Retirement Community assembly hall for this regular Wednesday night concert. Their Yamaha piano had been tuned to a fare thee well for an eclectic and fascinating program by guest artist Dmitri Shteinberg. The native of Moscow, Russia, is based at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts while maintaining an active national and international career, both as soloist and accompanist to major artists. A new CD featuring chamber music by Samuel Barber and Richard Strauss is scheduled for release later this year on the Fleur de Son Classics label.
The autograph score of Sonata No. 30 in A-flat, Op. 110, is dated December 25, 1821; but Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) continued with revisions into January 1822. Shteinberg brought great clarity to the wonderful opening "Moderato cantabile molto espressivo" while weaving a gossamer texture throughout. He skillfully exploited the humorous aspects, meter-jarring accents, unexpected gaps, and abrupt ff dynamic changes in the lively "Scherzo: Allegro molto." His overall control and insight were striking, blending a melancholic melody and a three-part fugue in the concluding "Adagio ma non troppo. Fuga: Allegro ma non troppo."
The four Impromptus of Frédéric Chopin (1810-49) made fine foils for the dramatic Beethoven. The pieces are subtle with delicate, flowing, melodic lines. Only No. 1 in A-flat, Op. 29 (1837), No. 2, in F-sharp, Op. 36 (1839), and No. 3 in C-flat, Op. 51 (1843), were planned for print by the composer. However, the most popular, Fantasie-Impromptu in C-sharp minor, Op. 66 (1834), was published posthumously by Julian Fontana. Shteinberg brought out the lace-like texture and airy, swirling melodic line of Op. 29. He conjured the complex chameleon qualities, slow, dark melodic opening, dynamic, heroic middle, and stunning modulation return to variations on the opening theme, of Op. 36. The transparent lines of Op. 51 were spun out eloquently. Shteinberg's performance of the justly beloved Fantasie-Impromptu, with its lyrical, nocturne-like middle section, was ravishing.
The three sonatas Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91) was long thought to have composed in Paris (1778) mark a major stylistic transformation. He may have been influenced by the sonatas of Johann Schobert. Mozart brings considerable freedom to his treatment of form, and he anticipates some technical aspects of Romanticism, such as melodies in the bass line or use of continuous modulations. Paris Sonata No. 2 in C, K.330 (Vienna, c.1781-82), has a transparent structure and a plethora of winning musical ideas. Shteinberg played the opening "Allegro moderato" with pellucid elegance of line and a warm tone. The luminous singing melody of the "Andante cantabile" was seamless while the vitality of folk elements of the "Allegretto" was given its due.
The rhythmic élan and refined palette of tonal color Shteinberg brought to three selections from Le tombeau de Couperin of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) made this Francophile wish he had played the full six parts of the suite. Before the masterful keyboard works of Debussy and Ravel, there was a rich keyboard tradition from the French clavecinists of the 17th and 18th centuries, such as Jean-Phillipe Rameau and the Couperin family, not the least François Couperin, Le Grand. There is a rich tradition of musical homages, and Ravel's suite is in that tradition. The subtle counterpoint and ornaments of the Prélude, which opens the suite, were brought out with exquisite clarity. Full scope was given to the piquant harmonies in the Forlane, the slow third suite movement. Shteinberg brought out the jubilant spirit of the suite's fourth movement, Rigaudon. Crossing of hands, worthy of Domenico Scarlatti, provided visual excitement. (The Beethoven, which opened the concert, featured a surprising amount of fast crossed-hands passages, too.) Don't miss a chance to hear Shteinberg in live performance!